Program Recap - What's Happening at MLive and the Grand Rapids Press?

wmprsaprogrammlivehq_006 The Building

As soon as I walked into the building on Monroe I had a whole new perception of print journalism. Walking through the door and to my left is a glass paneled interview/conference room. There is an open waiting area with lounge chairs, coffee tables and a couch. There were journalists with open laptops typing away furiously and enjoying the collaborative feel of the space. A modern white reception desk sits against a staircase leading up to an open area of collaborative journalist workspace.

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As the professionals entered the building they were directed up the stairs to the larger space of desks connected in lecture style rows. The upper floor consists of white desks connected in rows. The rows are set facing each other with a small partition in between. The partitions that divide each desk space do not block the view of the other person sitting across. Each desk comes equipped with an aqua blue Steelcase filing cabinet/bench with a cushion for sitting on the top and drawers for storage underneath. All the furniture in the office is Steelcase. Live photos of Michigan and Grand Rapids line the walls. The office bodes a comfortable and collaborative mobile workspace. With its brightness coming from the hanging contemporary lanterns and strips of lights crisis crossing the entire length of the ceiling. Wall length white boards grace the front and back of the room, used by editors having brainstorming sessions with their reporters. Each WMPRSA program attendee sat at a desk and were introduced to a panel of Mlive executives and editors, discussing the new look and feel of the Mlive Media Group.

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The Luncheon

Because we were the first large group to view the new location we were lucky enough to hear from a panel of eight speakers that work for Mlive. The panel consisted of Dan Gaydou, The Community News Director Julie Hoogland, Executive Director of Print Paul Keep, News Editor Meegan Holland, Community Enagement Specialist Todd Fettig, Managing Producer Kate Nagengast, Reporter Shandra Martinez and finally local Entertainment Reporter Todd Chance.

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The panel discussed the new Mlive hub. They said that the new locations purpose was to make a strong statement; they did not move locations because their business was failing, they moved and made changes because business has been doing so well. Gaydou stated that the new location was leading the way in the industry because of its openness to the community. The new location and atmosphere requires engagement, not only from the journalists, and people working there, but from the community as well they said. The hub allows for journalists to be flexible and exercise their skills by being accessible to the public they serve. It requires both community collaboration as well as engagement.

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Todd Fettig the community engagement specialist discussed commentary on the Mlive website. He said anyone can post comments and occasionally the comments posted are even used for story ideas. Not only does Fettig encourage PR professionals to comment on the website, but he also encourages all members of the community to take an active role. Todd Chance who is the local entertainment reporter said content is king; the medium in which you receive your information is not as important as the information itself. Everyone on the panel emphasized the new Mlive hubs focus on community and its openness to the public. They concluded by saying the hub is a public space and all are welcome.

Recap Provided by students from Grand Valley State University’s PRSSA Chapter:

Program Recap - The Politics and the PR May 2011

wmprsamay2011programpoliticsandpr_047 (Medium) The Michigan Campaign for Smokefree Air, along with the American Cancer Society and many Michigan residents, recently celebrated the one year anniversary of Michigan’s smoking ban. Since the ban took effect on May 1, 2010, general support has continued to grow and compliance is high. Judy Stewart, state government relations director for the American Cancer Society and campaign manager of the Michigan Campaign for Smokefree Air, and Emily Gerkin Palsrok, managing director of public affairs at Lambert, Edwards & Associates, spoke with the WMPRSA group about the challenges and successes of the campaign.

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The Campaign for Smokefree Air began the long fight to victory in 2005. At that time, there were only eight states smoke free and, with little emphasis on social media, the campaign had to find their power in grassroots organizations and the passion of Michigan’s residents. The campaign received high public support right away, with nearly two-thirds in favor of the ban. Legislative support, however, was a bit more difficult to come by. With new legislation being brought in every two years, re-education and consistent messaging was key for the campaign’s success.

A continuous push for messaging in media relations tactics was ultimately the key to the campaign’s success. Campaign members were adamant about producing studies and surveys that provided factual evidence that would quiet the opposition. Such studies included revealing results from local air quality testing, opinion polling and the Surgeon General’s report. The campaign also heavily relied on support and testimonials from individuals in favor of the bill. The committee took advantage of new social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to launch “Act Now or Forever Hold Your Breath,” an online campaign, in 2009.

The social media push seemed to be what was needed towards the end and, in December 2009, the bill passed. On May 1, 2010, Michigan was the 42nd state to go smoke free. Today, despite positive feedback, the campaign is still defending the law and is now working to help other states, such as Indiana, do the same. This program proved to be an excellent case study in public affairs.